Future Forty Updated for June

Dave · May 31, 2007 at 8:51 am · Filed Under Mariners 

It’s the first of the month, and the major league team is frustrating to talk about, so that means it’s time for another Future Forty update, where we can focus on the future of the franchise rather than the present. Escapism at its finest.

May was quite a different month on the farm than April. Guys who started the season fell apart, while others found their form and surged ahead. I’ve gathered quite a few scouting reports from guys who have been scouting for a long time, and what they’ve seen has shifted my opinion a bit on a few players. So, let’s get to the guys who have made some waves, one way or another.

Wladimir Balentien’s OPS in May is 250 points lower than in April. That’s a huge dropoff in production, but also highlights why looking at value statistics such as OPS for minor leaguers will lead to flawed conclusions. Take a look at the numbers that reveal his secondary skills:

April: 10.1% BB/AB, 19.1% K/AB, 36.3% XBH/H, 1:1 HR/2B, 5 SB/1 CS
May: 11.0% BB/AB, 18.3% K/AB, 32.2% XBH/H, 1:1 HR/2B, 5 SB/1 CS

The walk and strikeout rates are statistical ties, and the XBH/H rate is basically the same. He’s split his extra base hits right down the middle between doubles and homers each month. He’s even stealing bases at the same clip. The massive drop in OPS is due entirely to the fact that balls that were going for singles in April became outs in May. There’s no less consistent skill in baseball for a hitter than the ability to hit a single, as the difference is often a couple inches here or there. It’s a ball falling in or sneaking under a glove. Hitting a lot of singles is rarely a sign of actual skill, with Ichiro being an obvious exception.

So, if you were to look at Balentien’s BA/OBP/SLG splits by month, you’d come to the conclusion that he was a significantly better player in April than he was last year. In terms of helping the Rainiers win, you’d be right. In terms of evaluating his talent level, which is really what prospect analysis is all about, you’d be missing the point, though. However you felt about Balentien at the end of April should be exactly how you feel about him now, because he just had the exact same month, just with a significantly smaller dose of luck.

I won’t talk too much about Adam Jones here, because we’ve covered the topic already, but he’s ready for the majors. 17 of his 33 hits in May went for extra bases, including 8 home runs. He’s improved his approach at the plate and he’s crushing mistakes. His defense is also vastly improved over where it was last season. If he was on the 25 man roster, he’d be the Mariners fifth best hitter and second best defensive outfielder. He’s a significantly better player than Raul Ibanez, Jose Vidro, Ben Broussard, or Richie Sexson right now. If the Mariners are serious about winning games, they should find a way to get him at-bats in the major league line-up.

And finally, from Tacoma, Jeff Clement. There are things to like in his statistical profile. 19 of his 42 hits have gone for extra bases and he’s drawn 20 walks in 172 at-bats. He’s running an .859 OPS in May, a huge upgrade over the .681 mark he posted in April and the .668 mark he put up in Tacoma last year. Behind only Ben Broussard, he’s got the second most left-handed power in the organization. So, there are reasons to be somewhat optimistic.

Good luck finding a scout who thinks he’s going to be much of a major league player, though. The reports on him from the first two months of the season have been absolutely brutal. Everyone says he’s swinging a very slow bat, can’t get around on fastballs on the inner half, chases pitches up in the zone, and is only effective when he knows he’s getting a fastball from a guy who can’t get it up there faster than 92. I haven’t gotten a good explanation for why his bat has slowed so much since college, but everyone agrees that it has. He hasn’t made the transition to wood bats well, and at this point, his offensive production is a question mark. To boot, pretty much everyone has given up on him as a major league catcher. He’s DH’ing more often, and his major league position now looks like first base or designated hitter.

For a guy who turns 24 in a few months and has lost his defensive value, he needs to be tearing the cover off the ball in the PCL. He’s just not, and not many people think he’s going to start doing so any time soon. I’ve downgraded him on the list, and he’s now more of a guy the M’s hope might be able to help them as a role player next year than any kind of catcher of the future. If the team could have that pick to do over again, I’m pretty sure they’d go another direction.

Okay, enough Tacoma stuff. Let’s talk about Tui’s struggles the last month. Remember what you read about Wlad a few paragraphs ago? Yea, same thing. He’s actually jumped his walk rate up by 50% during his slump, is getting XBH at the same rate, but all those April singles have turned into May outs. He’s not a .370 hitter, but he’s not a .205 hitter either. The lack of power is still a problem, but the improved approach at the plate is a significant development, and I’m still very happy with the first two months he’s put together. The ball will start finding holes again, and if Tui can learn to drive the ball more often, he can still turn himself into a useful major league player.

Down in High Desert, Chris Tillman made his second start last night since getting promoted from Wisconsin, and it didn’t go well. It was never a good idea to put him in the California League at this point, and the early results are about as bad as we feared they would be. The M’s still believe in making their prospects fail at an early age – we still disagree with that idea of player development. No point rehashing the argument here, but needless to say, I feel bad for Chris Tillman. A promising season from a young kid was just flushed down the drain in lieu of seeing how he overcomes artificial adversity.

The hottest hitter in the organization resides in Wisconsin, where Kuo-Hui Lo began the season 22 for his first 120, a paltry .183 average, with all of 3 extra base hits, 7 walks, and 23 strikeouts in his first 31 games. Struggling didn’t begin to define it. But he’s reminding people why they like the bat, as he’s now 15 for his last 35 with 5 extra base hits, 4 walks, and 4 strikeouts in his last 10 games. He’s driving the ball, working the count, and showing that there is life in his bat.

And no Future Forty would be complete without a note about my underaged mancrush, Carlos Triunfel. He hit .326/.357/.424 in May, as a 17-year-old in the Midwest League. He showed some real power, driving 7 extra base hits, and actually drew walks in back to back games. His game is still ridiculously raw (he’s been picked off of first base four times in two months), but the bat is just so very special. He’s now only the second Mariner prospect ever to receive a 10 reward rating on the Future Forty. He’s still all projection at this point, but the ceiling is basically limitless. He’s got a real chance to be the next great Mariner hitter, and it’s been a long time since we had a prospect we could write that about.


128 Responses to “Future Forty Updated for June”

  1. msb on May 31st, 2007 2:20 pm

    what fiasco? That Finny reported the Ms would ask to get Lester or Papelbon for Reed?

  2. Sammy on May 31st, 2007 2:25 pm

    101. I think darrylzero is referring to this:


    Not one of Dave’s better moments.

  3. Dave on May 31st, 2007 2:27 pm

    I famously called Lester and Papelbon B+ prospects, the type of guys every team has in their organization, and “not special”.

    Red Sox fans went crazy. I stand by my comments. I was pretty sure Papelbon would end up as a reliever, and he did. I’m still not sold on Jon Lester as anything more than a back-end starter, though obviously, I’m rooting for him considering all he’s been through.

  4. scraps on May 31st, 2007 2:31 pm

    100: How would Dave’s opposition to trading Reed for Papelbon or Lester demonstrate anti-Mariner bias? The list wasn’t Things Dave Was Right About, so your response is a non sequitur.

  5. dnc on May 31st, 2007 2:48 pm

    If anything, that example proves that Dave (like the rest of us) over valued Jeremy Reed. Proof that Dave is nothing but a Kool-Aid drinking homer. 😉

  6. SpokaneMsFan on May 31st, 2007 2:51 pm

    Great post Dave, at least the future might (assuming Bavasi gets the axe and doesn’t trade all the youngsters for “proven veterans”) be a little brighter than the present. Not to complain and admitting I have no idea how hard it is to fix, the future 40 link on the left still says 4/30/07 although it does take me to the updated list.

  7. david h on May 31st, 2007 3:09 pm

    Speaking of Morrow, it turns out that, wow, he has 4 plus pitches! You spend all this time watching Mariners games, and yet you can still learn something about the team from a guy who probably hasn’t seen more than a few ESPN highlights.

  8. tait644 on May 31st, 2007 3:39 pm

    I think everyone here would trade Reed for Lester or Papelbon in a heartbeat. Not a big deal that Dave missed on that. Remember when the M’s refused to deal Jose Paniagua to the Yanks for Alfonso Soriano?

    That’s one of the great things about baseball – you never know what could happen in a couple of years.

    So who knows? Matt Tuiasasopo might be putting up a .300/.380/.550 line in a few years.

  9. Gomez on May 31st, 2007 3:45 pm

    98. I’m not questioning the prediction so much as the reasoning for the prediction, as the factors previously mentioned in making said prediction aren’t necessarily the factors that are producing Tillman’s struggles right now. Making a prediction that comes true doesn’t necessarily make the reasoning that led to said prediction correct.

  10. Mike Snow on May 31st, 2007 3:53 pm

    I’m not questioning the prediction so much as the reasoning for the prediction

    And you’ve been informed repeatedly that you misinterpreted that reasoning. Drop it already.

  11. Chris Miller on May 31st, 2007 3:59 pm

    #107, apparently he uses the following scale too describe a pitchers pitches:

    Totally Unhittable
    Mad wicked monkey sh*t spectacular
    Weapon of Mass Destruction

  12. Chris Miller on May 31st, 2007 4:01 pm

    He’d use Plus Plus instead of plus, but that sounds too much like what nerds do to themselves when their alone (C++).

  13. Bearman on May 31st, 2007 4:03 pm

    So many good arms have come through the M’s farm system but the fact is pitchers should rarely be drafted out of high school.
    I have always been of the opinion community college or higher(University/College)for pitchers.Position players are very different cause they often take longer to develop cause of the offensive side of pro baseball and cause of quicker pace on D.

    However you come across that rare pitcher that you can’t pass up and he is a high schooler.
    Tillman is such a one and His struggles are actually good sometimes mistakes.
    Poor outings teach a young arm better where he’s going wrong than all the tape reviewed and advise from a pitching coach could.
    Cause when the coach is telling where he making his mistakes and shows him the tape he more likely to LISTEN and LEARN.

    I see Matt Tuiasaopois in my estimation the in house heir to 3rdB for the M’s if he can maintain his consistent offensive #s and continue to improve with this glove and I believe without a doult he will.He’s finally getting it.

  14. Sammy on May 31st, 2007 4:04 pm

    112. I thought nerds left alone rosterbated until their forearms went numb from, you know… all that typing.

  15. Grizz on May 31st, 2007 4:09 pm

    109: You don’t see the problem with developing a starting pitcher by placing him in an environment that makes it difficult for him to pitch more than four innings per start?

  16. Dave on May 31st, 2007 4:10 pm

    Look Gomez, here’s a suggestion – assume that I’m not an idiot, okay?

    You took my original posting of “hey, M’s promoted Tillman to High Desert, bad idea, that park is horrible” to mean that my objection to the idea was solely based on the disaster that is High Desert stadium. Why you took it that way? I don’t know. But for whatever reason, this entire conversation took place because you decided to assume that my reasoning was based on a flawed premise.

    If you’d have just asked “hey Dave, why don’t you think this is a good idea?”, odds are I’d have given you a pretty detailed answer. Instead, you took the lame way of presuming that I didn’t know what I was talking about.

    I think I’ve earned the benefit of the doubt. If you don’t, then you probably shouldn’t care what I say anyways.

  17. msb on May 31st, 2007 4:33 pm

    Remember when the M’s refused to deal Jose Paniagua to the Yanks for Alfonso Soriano?

    no. I remember when the Ms (and the Expos) asked for Soriano when the Yanks were looking for a reliever, and the Yankees said no.

  18. Tek Jansen on May 31st, 2007 5:09 pm

    Dave, how close is Jose “The Aircraft Carrier” De La Cruz to making your FF list?

  19. Dave on May 31st, 2007 5:27 pm

    He’s in the 41-50 range. The low ERA is masking the fact that he’s not throwing strikes or blowing hitters away. It’s something of a mirage.

  20. Kirk D on May 31st, 2007 5:36 pm

    Dave, what about Andrew Barb? His numbers have looked pretty good thus far in his career – high K rate, decent walk rate, good K/BB ratio. Is this a case of a guy that posts good numbers but doesn’t excite scouts about his future chances? Is he a little too old for the levels he’s pitching to get too excited about?

  21. Dave on May 31st, 2007 5:52 pm

    Minor league relievers have to be pretty special to be valuable. Barb’s not special. The minors are full of Andrew Barb type guys.

  22. Kirk D on May 31st, 2007 5:57 pm

    Fair enough. You’re probably looking for more eye-popping numbers like what Lowe was putting up last year when you’re talking about relievers. Just curious what (if much) separates Barb from someone like Austin Bibens-Dierkx?

  23. Dave on May 31st, 2007 6:27 pm

    It isn’t just about the numbers – you can have eye-popping numbers as a minor league reliever and still not be a prospect. Colter Bean has been proving this for years.

    Dirkx throws from a low sidearm slot, giving him the potential to be death on right-handed hitters. His delivery is deceptive enough to potentially make up for a lack of stuff.

  24. gwangung on May 31st, 2007 6:33 pm

    Dirkx throws from a low sidearm slot, giving him the potential to be death on right-handed hitters. His delivery is deceptive enough to potentially make up for a lack of stuff.

    So, what are they working on in his delivery? Something to be concerned about?

  25. Allen McPheeters on June 1st, 2007 11:15 am

    This is only moderately on-topic, but I’ve always wondered why people use BB/AB. Since walks are not at-bats, wouldn’t it make more sense to measure BB/PA, and then to use K/PA as a reasonable comparison?

  26. Chris Miller on June 1st, 2007 1:16 pm

    #125, that is the best way for SO and BB. Per PA not per AB.

  27. DMZ on June 1st, 2007 1:59 pm

    Yeah – if you look back I’ve done a lot of pitcher evaluations where I try and measure outcomes as a % of total batters faced. per/9 IP is an even worse measure of counting stats.

  28. manny mariner on June 3rd, 2007 8:55 am

    I think everyone here is all to excited to categorize Clement as a bust. Let’s give the guy the benefit of the doubt. He hasn’t even played a full season start to finish.

    Last year he was promoted to AAA after an injury and only 15 AA games under his belt. Blame management for that. Alex Gordon was allowed to flourish the entire season in AA and was minor-league POY. Looks like the Royals managed to rush him this season, and so yes, he is in MLB ball with a a sparkling .170 BA.

    No doubt Clement has had a slow start this season in Tacoma, but all reports show that his catching has improved, and even though his BA sucks at .246, his power numbers are not that bad. He is batting .361 in his last ten games, and seems to be hitting a midseason stride. My guess is he’ll be around .265 by season’s end, with decent power numbers.

    Obviously we would all like him to be a little further along, but I have a feeling that this guy is going to breakout. I’ve seen him a couple of times live this year, and I think this ‘slow-bat’ stuff is BS.

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